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Environments 2 - Synced to students

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Week 02 - Part 1: Foliage, Decals, etc..


We can do way more than modeling, texturing and placing our assets. Let’s cover some extras.



The workflow to create foliage is overall the same as we did in the first year. Let’s think back to our glorious first year at DAE.
Okay, time to go back to our dear beloved plants.

Reference & Blockout

Start with a simple blockout that captures the shape of fern you want to make. Take a close look at reference for the proportions. ​

Texturing: Step 1

You will most of the time work with photos to create vegetation. You can find photos of plants everywhere, the internet is magical place. ​Here are some websites where you can find some:
(payed, free is sometimes possible)

Texturing: Step 2

Once you have your base color and alpha/opacity map, we can go to Substance Painter. In Substance, we can tweak our values, add roughness, a gradient, etc..

Into Unreal Engine

Never forget this step. Once you have your first pass of textures, take your model and textures to Unreal Engine and see how your plant looks there. We do this because it will also look a bit different in Substance compared to Unreal Engine. Go back and forth, as many times as you can. → So you can easier/quicker pinpoint problems. ​
With material instances, I can create different looking ferns while using the same model with the same textures. ​
Then you can use the foliage painting tool to scatter your beautiful plants across your scene.

Vertex Painting

Vertex painting is very handy when you want to blend multiple materials together based on their height map. This is very good to break up and add extra detail to modular pieces. Examples: Pathway with sand/dirt/snow/moss, mossy wall, damages, leaks, etc.. ​KEEP IN MIND: You need extra/a good amount of vertices to get good results.
Vertex painting is heavier than having decals. → Vertex painting is a more complex shading model.


Clouds can be essential to creating an interesting composition, definitely when you have a clear sky to take into account.
Use a plane with a cloud texture and a normal map to fake some depth.
Make sure the material is set to translucent and the translucency is set to volumetric directional.
You can use a ‘Depth Fade’ node to prevent the cloud clipping through objects.
This combines with a good base texture, can give you pretty realistic results.



Cheap and very cheap = Decals. These are widely used in games to put that cherry on the top, and something with kiss of the chef.

Worldspace materials

Small intersection. Worldspace materials that use Triplanar mapping make it easier to use tileable textures, and no need to worry about your UV’s. Combined with small details and decals, you will fastly end up with a nice environment. ​This article will give you more info:

Distance Fields

This opens up a whole world of possibilities. You can create water that needs to flow around an object, sand falling of an object, a slime blob reacting to the environment, etc.. Look here: ​

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